No, YOU Grow the Placenta

Hey Team! It’s been a beautiful, sunny, warm late Spring day -I can almost hear the trees and plants growing- and my cancer is nowhere to be found. I got a CT scan and labs and met with my Dr. Feldman (my oncologist) last week. My tumor marker remains in the undetectable range for the second time (now a pattern and not an anomaly!) and all of the tumors in my right lung have either disappeared or are smaller (inflammation and fluid showed in my abdomen and left lung but that’s expected).

In fact, Dr. Feldman says there are only two tumors in the lung that would be operable (although I bet the magical Dr. Bains could snag a few more with his wizard hands). We have punted on the decision to operate and decided to let my body recover for a month or so. However, he seemed to indicate that another slice and dice may not be necessary! I am still anemic and sore from the surgeries and my energy comes and goes but it is getting better every day.

The question now emerges… …is it over? Have we won? Are we in the clear? It is certainly starting to feel that way but it is hard to begin to trust that feeling. It feels like that moment at the end of a gunfight when everyone’s ammo is out. Smoke hangs in the air obscuring any attempt to assess who is left standing. Silence is punctuated by a few groans of pain. Can I come out now from behind this oil barrel?

Here’s the thing, even if I was declared NED (no evidence of disease) and my oncologist and surgeons high-fived with their stethoscopes it would be a temporary stay. The bald fact of it is we will all die. It is only a question of when and it seems that time has the ability to compress, expand and fold into itself in unpredictable ways. It may be a car wreck in a week, a recurrence in six months, an anvil falling from a downtown building in three years or a stroke in 40 years. So here’s the more salient question: what does that time in between really mean in the end?

Don’t get me wrong – I am deeply grateful for the unfolding of my healing path in the last 9 months and for any extra days I am granted on this earth. It’s just that from one perspective maybe the vital questions, emotions and searching that surface when Death is breathing down your neck should never be allowed to recede. As Mark Nepo wrote, “Die a little every day.” And in doing so maybe we can make that time in between more meaningful.

And now for the really important news.

…drumroll please…


KR is pregnant!!! Yup, that’s right – just over three and a half months into a perfectly healthy and life-changing gestation. We conceived and implanted with a little help from the good people at RMACT using the miracle of IVF. It was our second attempt after going through a failed cycled at the end of last year. Good thing this one has worked so far because I only banked 3 vials of sperm before chemo and one of them was so-so (according to someone whose job it is to judge other people’s semen) making this the last viable vial. It was kind of “all in.” We are, as you might imagine, overjoyed and looking forward to every moment of welcoming and nurturing this new life.

Why share this here? I have kept certain aspects of our lives that are not so related to my cancer out of the open glare of this blog. Being pregnant is not only simply monumental but it feels so integrated into the healing path. It is a choice to create, a vote to affirm Life which is inherently an FU to Death but it is also tightly related to the very nature of my disease and it’s origins.

Last Spring, in the land of pre-cancer, life was a maelstrom of attempted fertility and racing activity. KR and I were trying to get pregnant, the tadpoles in the pond were legion with the pulse of new life, we were donating sperm to friends of ours who were trying to get pregnant and I was spreading over a hundred pounds of wildflower seed on the raw earth that surrounded our newly built home.

Somewhere in there one of my pre-spermatic cells lost his shit and started growing placenta until a few months later the softball-sized mass in my abdomen pressed on a nerve and sounded the alarm shortly before I started coughing up blood.

My cancer sub-type is choriocarcinoma which is, essentially, placenta. My tumor marker is HCG which is the hormone used to detect pregnancy in women as it is secreted by growing placenta. I was, in some way, pregnant (perversely, mortally, grotesquely pregnant). Maybe some part of me that is so fiercely independent and insistent on DIY figured I could just get the baby-making crossed off the to do list all on my own.

Turns out that, for homo sapiens, the male really should leave the gestation to the fairer sex.

Some of the points of overlap and intersection were intense. There was a moment where, as per IVF protocol, I was injecting KR with HCG -this compound that for months had been the measure of the strength of my disease. There was another moment where we both got tests back and I was in the normal range for HCG for the first time and hers confirmed that the implantation was successful. Some insane X graph was at work, a baton of placental growth being passed in the dark.

So, along with the usual excitement (and fear), being pregnant feels corrective, redemptive, and healing. It feels like we have moved from the dance floor where I stumbled and fell to the stage where we joined the band to make some of the music of life for a spell. So cheers – here’s to a summer of warmth and strong healthy green growth!

…and sorry for the long post. Just to make it longer here’s a poem for you. The latest full moon this month was the flower moon – a moon of shedding, of letting go and rebirth.



flower moon
planting moon
milk moon

hold me in your warm light
turn the shadow to silver
until everything glistens

bear my unsure beginning
in your ancient affirmations

until the swelling
cracks the hardened husk

my white flesh bulges
into the world

I stretch myself
towards the sun


  1. kristin erickson says:

    Bethany, I loved being with you, and walking, and hearing about your life since I last saw you, your courage is inspiring. Thank you!! Below is my brother’s latest post, from a couple of weeks ago. If you want to read any more, you can follow the links at the bottom of the post, his poems are throughout, lots in the fall and early winter, not so many these past few months. No outfits yet….I turned L at the end of your road in the interest of time, I think I might take the kids to Grandma’s attic tomorrow! Love to you,K

    Date: Mon, 26 May 2014 00:13:51 +0000 To:

  2. Eric Giesecke says:

    Congrats, this is great news.

  3. May we see, hear and feel the full spirit of your and Katie Rose’s child in their complete manifestation of their sacred journey to us. Love Nadiya~

  4. Ralph Linsalata says:

    Jay, great news. As every survivor of cancer knows. Each day and each person becomes more special and important and life itself becomes more worthwhile.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  5. alan st. vincent says:

    Great news. Love to you both.
    Uncle Al

  6. Cynthia says:

    I am wearing the biggest, goofiest grin on my face… So very happy for you guys!

  7. Larry Hayes says:

    Fantastic news–big hugs all around!

  8. patty giesecke says:

    Quiet, smiling, heartfelt,………CONGRATULATIONS!

  9. that was an incredible post

  10. Pat Farrell says:

    Dear Dear Jay and Katie Rose. How can words, other than your own…begin to express the wonder and miracle and redemption of your wonderful news. Your beautiful baby grows, as you breathe in the fresh green meadows of early summer. Your love and courage trumps all. Jay, your flower moon poem is heartbreaking beautiful. Both of you are. We are all full up with happiness for you.
    Love, Pat and Tom

  11. Esther Forrest says:

    Oh Jay, boy can you write. You HAVE TO turn this into a book for the world! I was crying as I read it. You know the nurses at MSK told me about patients who are afraid to leave the hospital after they are well. I can totally relate. When I no longer needed CAT scans I was besides myself with fear. Time is a great distance provider. Soon you will have a little one to push those fears away and consume your every waking moment. What joy!

  12. Theresa Ryan says:

    Happy news all around topped off by an encouraging poem! Cherish every moment. xot

  13. Sebastian says:

    SUCH AWESOME NEWS!!! It brought a smile to my face and tears of joy to my eyes. I am so happy for both of you and am sending you tons of love.

  14. “Lucky little one,” well said, Jane Ringer!

  15. bart louwagie says:

    Happy tidings
    Thank you for the long post.

  16. Ann Bresnan says:

    Joy! Joy! Joy! Wonderful, busy days ahead for you ! So special…Conserve your energy , you will need it :-)

  17. I love this. This is choosing to show yourself and who you are. Who deep down when you are lying in bed with no one but your own thoughts keeping you awake. You have someone you love beside you and that gives you strength but you are naked as a J bird and you let it all hang out. That is pure. And I love you for it. The world is better for you and Rose and what the future holds.

  18. Jane Ringer says:

    Wishing you a very Happy BIRTHday tomorrow Jay! We are so happy for you and Katie Rose and the lucky little one! xoxoxoxo

  19. Kristina Gates says:

    Incredible news! So unbelievably happy for you both on all fronts! Much love, Kristina & Chris


  21. Winslow Lewis says:

    What a joy inducing post! You have an incredibly beautiful way with words. So happy for you Jay, on all fronts.

  22. Randy Fairbanks says:

    Hooray! When I saw the subject line, I did a double take and thought, “Could it be???” That’s the best news imaginable! We’re thrilled for you and KR and can’t wait to celebrate. We love you!

  23. pbnilsson says:

    Freakin’ amazing. Congratulations!

  24. Congrats guys!! So super excited for the next chapter… And you can probably keep the same blog url! ;)

  25. Congrats Jay and Katie Rose! Such great news, and such a wonderful way to emerge from this tough passage. Can’t wait to see you guys.

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